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The radicalisation of Malaysia


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The radicalisation of Malaysia
By Zan Azlee

Since when has “liberal” and “pluralism” been considered bad words by Islam? This is quite surprising for me since I consider myself to have traits of both these words, and yet I consider myself a Muslim.

It was reported in the media recently that certain Islamic authorities in Malaysia are of the belief that thoughts relating to liberalism and pluralism has the potential of being radicalised, and hence, is a threat.

As far as I can observe, there are yet to be any person or groups of people who picked up arms and acted violently and also considered themselves liberals or pluralists.

But please do let me know if you have evidence otherwise because I could be biased since I identify with these thoughts. Then I would need a light to be shone down on me.

This is extremely disturbing, especially when Islam is facing extreme challenges (with the likes of Islamic State). Radicalisation is a serious problem and it should be dealt with accordingly.

We need Islamic leaders who are forward-thinking and not those who have an archaic perspective on life and of the religion. Because what is radicalisation if not the rejection of contemporary ideas?

I used to think that those who were attracted to Islamic radicalism were those who were uneducated and lacked knowledge. Hence, it would be easy to manipulate and fool these people.

But I think I may be wrong since it seems that there is an increasing number of people with high formal education joining the ranks of the Islamic State (Isis) in the Middle-East as well as in Southeast Asia.

Another thought that I had is that extreme poverty would cause people to be desperate enough to join a cause that took extreme measures in order to justify the desperate times.

But again, I think I may be wrong. There is evidence that shows that many of those with respected and professional jobs are leaving their comfort zones to join Isis as well.

Then I heard something that made sense. A professor of foreign policy at Georgetown University in Washington DC, Haroon Ullah, said that mainly well-read and well-fed people of the middle-class were attracted to radicalism.

In a short video, Haroon, who also works with the US State Department, explained that these people craved for order and wanted a stop to inefficient governance and corruption. And Islamic radicals offer these, even if it is at a high cost.

If you think about it, out of all the different countries that are trying to battle radicalisation, Malaysia, although wanting to battle it as well, seems to be the only one that is actually embracing it.

The Pew Research Centre recently conducted a survey and it said that 11% of Malaysians actually have a favourable view of Isis and another 25% more say they don’t know.

More shocking is that 80% of Malaysian Muslims also think that suicide bombings are justified. Now this is a very scary thought indeed for me. I don’t know about you!

The one thing people need to do is to show that Isis and similar militant groups actually do not bring about change. What they do bring is more violence and deaths and this cannot be glorified.

The political leaders in Malaysia also have to stop the politicisation of Islam because it could well be that it is one of the reasons that is conditioning such thoughts to develop among Malaysian Muslims.

And definitely the government has to address the fact that people are desperate for change. Hence, they need to make sure that there is efficient and clean governance.

The recent attacks by Isis in Jakarta and the arrests in Malaysia show that the situation is critical in this part of the world. Maybe it’s time to really do something about it.

[This article originally appeared at The Malaysian Insider]

Seriously now, who really understands the TPPA?


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Seriously now. Who really understands the TPPA?
By Zan Azlee

I attended the #BantahTPP rally that took place last Saturday in Kuala Lumpur because I wanted to see how many people were really against Malaysia signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

The TPPA is something that I am particularly interested in and have read a lot about, as well as sitting down for a one hour interview with Datuk Mustapa Mohamed, Minister of International Trade and Industries.

Surprisingly, the turnout for the rally was much bigger than I had expected. The event’s Wikipedia page said they expected 20,000 people to attend. But my rough estimate would be less than 10,000.

The protesters were not allowed to gather at Dataran Merdeka, which was their initial proposed location, and the city council granted them the use of Padang Merbok instead.

There was heavy police and city council presence at Dataran Merdeka on the day, but the protesters were very well-behaved and marched past them towards Padang Merbok in a very orderly manner.

Once they arrived at the approved Padang, the politicians and NGO leaders were already there speaking rhetorics, which were mostly about how we are selling the country off to Western powers.

And this is where I have a problem with the reasons for this group wanting to protest against the TPPA – there didn’t state any solid and valid reasons that the TPPA is detrimental to the country.

I spoke to a few protesters who were there because I really wanted to know what their understanding of the 6,300 page TPPA document is. And the answers I got were quite vague.

Zainab Abdul Rani, who hails from Klang, said that she was worried no one would help to save the next generation. Not understanding what she said, I pressed further by asking for more details.

“There are a lot of negatives aspects of the TPPA. Firstly, our national resources. There are more bad than good when it comes to the TPPA. We need to defend our country’s integrity and economy,” she said.

Not really the kind of answer I was looking for, but it was her answer and I didn’t want to put words into her mouth. So I moved on looking for others who could explain things better to me.

Basir Saad, who came all the way from Taiping to protest against the TPPA, had a little it of a clearer explanation for me when I asked him for his reasons for being there.

“The prices of goods and products might increase such as medicine. And there might be an import of food stuff such as rice that might be cheaper but would mean taking away the income of our locals,” he said.

KL-ite, Siti Rubiah, said that it is a responsibility she had because of the bad economic situation the country is in. The rakyat has the right to oppose this during such dire times.

“With the economy in such a state, we don’t need outsiders meddling in our business. We can manage our own country. They just want to control our economy,” she explained.

Adam Mohd Farid, a student who comes from Sabah, said that he thinks it is fishy that the whole TPPA discussion is blanketed in secrecy.

“There is the possibility that we are actually selling our country away. Foreign corporations will come into the country and our local companies will have to compete with them,” he complained.

If I may be honest, I didn’t feel that the answers given by those who I spoke to to actually show an adequate understanding of the free trade agreement.

Wouldn’t it actually be a good thing if it means that Malaysia will have to adhere to international standards if they want to be included in the group? It would mean improving ourselves, wouldn’t it?

And if they are so afraid of international corporations coming into Malaysia (who says they aren’t already here), why can’t they look at the perspective of Malaysian companies having the opportunities to go out?

But then, if I may continue to be honest, even I do not have enough understanding of the TPPA to decide whether I am in support or I am against it.

It’s 6,300 pages long and although it is released for the public to see, I doubt that the lay person would have the ability to understand it comprehensively.

Also, if negotiations of the TPPA began 5 years ago, how come the government only started to release information about it to the public and the members of Parliament less than a year ago?

Now, they are debating in Parliament. By the time you read this article, a decision would have already been made. Was there adequate time for everyone to actually study and understand everything there is to know?

If there is one thing the protesters got right was the fact that there was so much secrecy throughout the TPPA negotiations. And when it came down to making a decision, not enough time was given to digest it.

And hence, that should be the main reason why they were protesting.

[This article originally appeared at English.AstroAwani.Com]

The Fat Bidin Film Club (Ep 39) – Cafe Lumiere


The Fat Bidin Film Club (Ep 39) – Cafe Lumiere

Zan and Aizyl watch the online short film ‘Cafe Lumiere’ directed by the godfather of Malaysian independent cinema, James Lee, on the Doghouse 73 Pictures YouTube Channel.

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The Fat Bidin Vlog (Ep 24) – Do they know what the TPPA is?


The Fat Bidin Vlog
Ep 24 – Do they know what the TPPA is?

Went to the anti-TPPA rally and wondered if the protesters really understand the TPPA.

New vlog episodes are out every Wednesdays!

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